I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Lowery, Hall of Fame athlete, Ivy League scholar, presidential aide, author, poet, teacher, and philanthropist. Nick has been featured on ABC’s 20/20, World News Tonight, Nightline with Ted Koppel, HBO, David Letterman twice, Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post and the New York Times. Nick is the only American to work for both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton in the White House Office of National Service, worked in the Regan Drug Abuse Policy Office, and became the first pro athlete with a Masters and Fellowship from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. Nick was inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2009 as the most accurate and prolific field goal kicker in NFL History when he left the National Football League. Nick founded Champions for the Homeless more than a decade ago, supporting St. Vincent De Paul’s with dozens of special uplifting celebrity events. His All-Pros against Bullying is about building cultures of empathy, helping close to 100 schools across the country combat bullying.
Awards: Nick was NFL Man of the Year for both the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets. He is the winner of the NFL Justice Byron Whizzer White Award, the US Jaycees’ “Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award” (also won by Elvis and JFK), and the National Community Service Award from United Cerebral Palsy for his work with at-risk and disabled youth. Recently, Nick has also been announced as the 2018 CNBC Stock Draft Winner and winner of the 2018 CNBC Stock Draft, taking the place of reigning champion Kevin O’Leary. Lowery was chosen based on the performance of his stock draft choices from the closing price on Apr. 26, 2018, through the 2019 Super Bowl. Lowery also won the 2019 Steinberg DeNicola Humanitarian Award.
Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
A compilation of events led me to my current role at Kannalife Inc., starting when I was working in the US Senate in the policy office for Reagan and H.W. Bush. During my time there was when I first discovered, through various organizations, how good it feels to give back.
I started in the Senate after being rejected by 8 NFL teams, 11 times. Though I had a mentor, Dick Johnson, who taught me to never give up on my dreams and to focus on my end goal, that’s what drove me to eventually make it to the NFL.
During my time on the field is when I noticed how good it feels to be successful and knew I wanted to share my success in any way I could and to continue to give back to as many people as possible. During my glory days kicking in the NFL, I witnessed many friends and former teammates experience the after-effects of head-to-head collisions, even losing my good friend Mike Webster to CTE from the so loved game of football. This is what led me to Kannalife Inc. Kannalife is a groundbreaking company that is researching cannabinoid-based therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like TBI, HE, CTE, Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathic Pain, and drug dependency. With Kannalife, I’ve been given the opportunity to go beyond helping only athletes, but feel that I am helping anyone suffering these traumatic diseases.
It’s been very rewarding and exciting to be a part of the NFL, politics, media, health and science industries and being able to see them all mix together to fight a bigger beast. I get to be a part of making sure people know their lives matter, and that there are companies fighting for them. Giving back is unlimited, spiritual, impactful and lasting, and that is why I continue to do what I do.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Years ago, I was lucky enough to drive Muhammad Ali to an NBA All-star game as his “unofficial” bodyguard alongside Dayton Moore, the general manager for the Kansas City Royals. This was before the Royals won the series, during the time when they were trying to change their environment and create higher core values for the team. I told Moore that I’d love to bring Muhammad Ali to one of the Royal’s games to meet the guys and talk to them about values, so I arranged for a surprise visit at their home stadium not too long after that day and we were set to go to Kansas City. Muhammad and I got in the car and started driving on a Friday, but here’s the thing, Friday’s consist of traffic and Muhammad suffered Parkinson’s disease and his meds only lasted so many hours so I knew we couldn’t be there for too long. Once we arrived we got him in a jersey and snuck him on a golf cart and drove him through the outfield and people went absolutely wild at the game. People were cheering and crying, and once we finished our grand entrance and had a chance to sit in our seats, I sat there just looking at him and everyone else around us looking at him, thinking “wow, this guy has an incredible impact on people.” Once the game finished and we were leaving the parking lot, people surrounded our car wanting to take photos and meet Muhammad, and that is when I saw just how strong this guy was. He was tired, fighting Parkinson’s, but he made the shakes completely stop and pushed through his pain to assure he made the people around him feel good, even though he didn’t himself. Muhammad Ali was a tremendous impact on people’s lives by enduring such an incredible, powerful life. That day, in Kansas City, was the day that made me want to lead a legacy like Muhammad’s.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
I would advise a young person these three things:
It’s never, never, never going to be easy.
If it’s easy, there’s something wrong.
Love the work so much that the game is fun.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The one person who has made an impact on my life is Dick Johnson. Dick was my mentor, my kicking coach, and friend and even though he never kicked himself, he stayed with me 10 years into my NFL career. Through all of my rejections, Dick really helped me see how important the Kicker on the sideline is and how to control my emotional state and stay focused. He helped me find incredible mental strength and was the reason I didn’t give up (which is why I sign my autographs “never give up”).
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
I’ve used my success as a voice to educate the world on the different options and methods we have to prevent neurological diseases. The work I am a part of right now with Kannalife is the research and development of CBD-like molecules that act as immunomodulators and neuroprotectants. Kannalife’s molecule, KLS-13019, has proven to be 50x more potent and safe than CBD, and is being researched to treat several neurodegenerative diseases including TBI, HE, CTE, and CIPN and drug dependency — all things I feel passionate about finding a solution to.
What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?
I think the most effective tool I use is my voice. I use my voice to spread awareness, educate and debate the wonderful work being done by Kannalife, in collaboration with other tools such as Instagram and Facebook that allow me to spread my voice even further, reaching people whom I wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to speak to.
I love doing interviews and meeting people who are interested in what I have to say, it’s an honor to be interviewed and talk about the work we’re doing over at Kannalife.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I decided years ago to do what I do with Kannalife because I truly believe I am bettering the future for not only athletes but for anyone suffering neurodegenerative diseases. I have the opportunity to use my success to educate people on the importance of cannabidiol (CBD) and prove there are alternatives that WORK. I have taken the loss like the death of my friend Mike Webster who suffered CTE to educate on how serious some brain diseases are and how much we need to protect our brains so we can assure a longer, healthier life for ourselves.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I became a part of the Kannalife team because they are finding ways to prevent the effects of traumatic brain injuries. My good friend, Mike Webster, suffered the brain disease, CTE, which led him, family and friends down a long road of suffering because nothing could cure him. If Mike had been given the chance to experience what Kannalife is doing, I believe things could have been different for him. Knowing this, I strive to continue on, educating athletes on Kannalife’s work and the reality of what could be for them and how they can prevent it.
What are the 3 things you wish someone told you when you first started and why?
Three things I wish someone told me when I first started are the same three things I would advise to a kid wanting to emulate success, again those are it’s never, never, never going to be easy, if it’s easy, there’s something wrong and love the work so much that the game is fun.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could start a movement it would be a health revolution making CBD a regular part of everyone’s diet in order to reduce the volume of prescription medicine, end the opioid epidemic and create a healthier and more pain-free tomorrow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite quote is one I came up with myself, after many life lessons, and that is, “It’s not the brightness of the spotlight on you, but the intensity of the light within you.” This is an example of my life and what I’ve chosen to do with it. I had the “spotlight” on me for so many years during my time in the NFL, but what truly shines through me and onto others is my work with Kannalife and the impact it’s had on many lives.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to have a sit-down lunch with the composer, lyricist, playwright, singer, and actor Lin Manuel Miranda. I think Miranda is someone who has transcended history and has done an incredible job of transforming it into something artistic, timeless and relevant. I would love to meet him!